Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

YIPPEE: Evolution Of A Thoroughbred

Nearly a quarter of a century in gestation, the LoPresti Fury flies into the 21st century full of promise

Roy LoPresti was one of those people who should have been allowed to live forever. I was proud to call Roy a friend and mentor, the smartest man I ever met on the subject of little airplanes.
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The LoPresti Fury will come standard with a full Bendix/King panel and a unique TaxiCam feature, a forward-looking video camera mounted on the right wing root that checks for traffic ahead, both on the taxiway and in the sky.
Roy was passionate about handling, and it shows up from the moment you push the throttle forward. It just doesn’t get much better than the LoPresti Fury. With the help of push rods and roller bearings at every juncture, the LoPresti design handles almost intuitively. Think a maneuver, and the LoPresti Fury glissades through it with the larking, capering agility of Barishnikov on speed. It’s almost as if the airplane is psychic, reading your thoughts and anticipating your next move.

Accordingly, the LoPresti Fury will be approved for aerobatic maneuvers like loops, Cuban eights, the gamut of rolls (slow, point and barrel), hammerheads, Immelmanns, spins and split Ss. These are essentially the same maneuvers normally performed in warbirds, and Fornof suggests the LoPresti Fury does them with equal dispatch, if at lower speeds. G-limits are +6/-3, so the airplane can take more than most of its pilots.

The first time I flew the LoPresti Fury, the airplane’s control harmony reminded me of the Italian Marchetti SF.260, a brilliant sportplane and military trainer conceived by legendary designer Stelio Frati. (More than coincidentally, Roy used the SF.260’s handling as his model in designing the LoPresti Fury’s control response.) [See “SIA-Marchetti SF.260” from P&P January 2008.]

Like the Marchetti’s near-telepathic response, the LoPresti Fury’s agility is somewhere between excellent and purely sensuous. The airplane’s ability to challenge the vertical and inverted sky is about as good as it gets. The prototype I flew frolicked behind a standard 200 hp Lycoming IO-360 mill. With 2,300 pounds to lift, that provides plenty of enthusiasm, but at this writing, it’s uncertain if that will be the production engine. There’s some talk of a Continental IO-550, probably rated for 310 hp. That would make quick work of the airplane’s fuel supply (current capacity on the prototype is 40 gallons, but the wings can accommodate up to 74 gallons), allowing only about 2 + 45 plus reserve at max cruise.

The big engine would also produce a screamer in both climb and cruise. Ascent with the IO-550 would probably top 2,000 fpm, and a 310 hp LoPresti Fury would almost certainly be a 200-knot airplane, probably easily the equal of a Mooney Ovation in cruise.

Even in its current form, the LoPresti Fury is no slouch in either category. Pulled nose high at 85 knots for the best climb rate, the LoPresti Fury charges uphill as if its tail is on fire, scoring an initial 1,350 fpm. In the LoPresti tradition, cruise is remarkably efficient, the result of a conscientious attempt to slick and fair wherever possible.

Unlike most of the fighters it’s designed after, the LoPresti Fury seats its pilots side by side in the cockpit. A single throttle is mounted at its center panel.
At a time when avgas costs more than reasonably priced Chablis, the LoPresti Fury is an efficiency expert. The completely flush-riveted prototype cruises at an easy 180 to 185 knots, burning 10 to 11 gph. That’s almost 19 statute mpg, about as good as my four-year-old Infiniti. If the airplane is produced with 200 hp, fuel will probably jump to 66 gallons, so the LoPresti Fury should offer five hours plus reserve at high cruise, worth about 900 nm between pit stops.

As one of a mere handful of certified taildraggers available, the LoPresti Fury doesn’t manifest the sometimes nasty habits you associate with the type, especially in landing mode. Gear doors that close over the wheel wells with the gear down help assure docile manners when the rubber meets the runway.

Way back in a previous life, I logged a few thousand hours in a succession of conventional-gear machines, but my recent time in taildraggers has been extremely limited. On the flight with Fornof, I didn’t break anything or hurt myself. If an aviation writer can do it, anyone can.

At a base price of $355,000, production LoPresti Furies will come standard with a full Bendix/King panel including virtually everything most aviators will want. In addition to the usual VHF/GPS/NAV/COM, the LoPresti Fury will sport a Mode S transponder along with TIS uplink, TAWS, XM Weather capability, a built-in iPod and TaxiCam, the latter a feature unique to LoPresti. (It’s a forward-looking video camera mounted in the right wing root to check for traffic ahead, both on the taxiway and in the sky.)

The LoPresti Fury’s only direct competition is the Micco SP26A, a 260 hp modernization of the Meyers 145 that’s also great fun to fly but not quite as quick. Like the LoPresti Fury, the Micco is rated for limited aerobatics and sells for roughly the same price. [See “Micco SP26A: Capable Aerobat” from P&P December 2007.]

If everything goes according to plan, the LoPrestis hope to roll out the first production LoPresti Fury in about two years, so plan to see a happy owner fly away from the New Mexico plant in late 2010 or early 2011.

Personally, I’m negotiating a deal to buy the prototype once the airplane enters production. Curt LoPresti, president of LoPresti Speed Merchants, has suggested that he just might let me have it for cost.

SPECS: LoPresti Fury

Labels: Piston Singles

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